The Reverse Contour

Busy Philipps shows Team Lenny how to do makeup before a big event.

Most Popular
Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Since our first Lenny editorial meeting, Jenni has been obsessed with having television's own Busy Philipps give her a good old-fashioned department-store-style makeup lesson. You may know Busy as Freaks and Geeks' Kim Kelly or Cougar Town's Laurie Keller or the best part of the seminal film White Chicks. Or you may be obsessed with her two beautiful daughters, Birdie and Cricket, whose perfect little visages smile out at you from her Instagram (which is delightfully honest about the challenges of Hollywood and motherhood both). But Jenni is most impressed by the fact that Busy does her own makeup for lots of events and red carpets.

More From Lenny Letter No. 29
5 articles
This One's for Anita Hill
And Now for Some Lesbian Sex Haikus (with Cats!)
Lenny Recommends: Foreign Affairs by Alison Lurie
When Gun Safety Got Personal For Me

This may not sound like a big deal, but in Hollywood it's essentially unheard of. Occasionally we'll meet someone who comes out of the theater world and so is used to wielding their own mascara wand, but almost everyone is spending demented amounts of money getting professionals to make them look like they have anime eyelashes. To be clear, professional makeup artists are amazing: knowledgeable, supportive, and if Lena didn't have one, her Twitter mentions would be even more hostile. But wouldn't it be nice to have some of those skills for yourself, so that you could get glamorous if and when you chose, even if it was just for a trip to Chipotle?

It's not that Jenni is bad at doing her own makeup (Lena is). But Jenni has gotten into a comfortably numb routine (mascara and tinted sunscreen — that's it). So Busy came to our office, armed with her tool kit and a can-do attitude, and Lena sat and watched intently as she showed Jenni some of her best tricks.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Below are Lena's field notes so that you CAN try this at home.

Jenni had Busy do half her face while she attempted to handle the other. I cannot honestly say Busy didn't go in and help a little with Jenni's side, but no shame. Also it was very cute to hear Busy talk about how she used to VOLUNTEER to do sorority girls' makeup before parties. "Were you in a sorority?" I ask, trying to understand. "Oh no," Busy says. "I was just delighted at the opportunity."


The first thing Busy said that blew our minds is that she often uses multiple shades of concealer. After all — the place below your eyes is not color-matched to your hairline, chin, or the bridge of your nose. She mixes, matches, and blends. Her favorite concealer is by Clé de Peau (although she was sure to tell us she also loves drugstore products, particularly Cover Girl's black eyeliner).

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Busy usually uses her fingers to apply concealer, though she was careful to note that if a makeup artist did that, she'd be pretty bummed. No one needs someone else's strange fingers in all their facial crevices. We want the distance of a brush.

She feels the single biggest shift you can make to your appearance is concealer, but not where you think: she suggests dotting it around your nostrils to lighten up your whole face. I tried it tentatively as she worked on Jenni and had to really take a moment to contemplate my own beauty.

Busy is also VERY enthused about concealer on your lids, either as a primer for a shadow or just a nice way to even things out. She also explained that she does foundation first and then cover-up, even though the conventional wisdom is the reverse. LADIES AND GENTLEMAN, WE HAVE A WILD ONE HERE.

Most Popular

Busy-Tip: Busy washes her sponges and brushes with her face wash because she knows it's something her face won't react to poorly with breakouts or redness.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Busy-Tip 2: Busy thinks a foundation brush is a key element, and she uses her hand as her palette when applying.

Pro-Tip: Busy's best friend Michelle Williams (heard of her?) works with a makeup artist for Chanel named Angela Levin, who said — in Busy's paraphrase — "Contouring is something everyone gets excited about, but they're insane and wrong. Angela says you should take the lightest color you can possibly wear on your face, put it underneath the cheeks, on your nose, center of forehead, and chin. Then use the Beauty Blender. It's a reverse contour!" The reverse contouring should be applied relatively high up, right under the cheekbone.

Busy reminds us not to forget our necks, foundation-wise, but not to get too aggressive about it.


Busy has a strong inclination to go gold on Jenni's lids, and I support it wholeheartedly. Busy stresses that eye shadow is something you need a brush for. No fingering here. You can use a wide, flat one to put on your base color and a smaller one if you want some contrast in the crease. Since Jenni's worried about her eyes looking too small (this must be a childhood wound because I've never noticed it), Busy decides on a light color first. She highlights the area under Jenni's eyebrow, then uses a Beauty Blender to remove any excess shadow in the inner corner of her eye. Finally, she busts out even more concealer for blending.

With the second eye color, a darker contrasting shimmer, Busy goes into the crease, then uses the Beauty Blender again to remove excess. She then takes the Beauty Blender and cleans up the eye-shadow primer around the edges. Jenni and Busy decide against liner, which in this context felt like a huge decision.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below

Jenni's eyebrows are really strong (the bitch!) so she doesn't need to do much to them. Sometimes, says Busy, a good eyebrow gel or clear mascara gives them some additional structure.

Most Popular

Busy-Tip: Before an event, Busy always recommends doing an SK-II sheet mask (or a Sephora face mask, a cheaper option). It should be something very moisturizing and single-use so that, on the day, the skin is moisturized enough to take the makeup. This is a hot tip for Jenni, who feels her face "eats blush."

Busy-Tip 2: Curl your eyelashes not once, but twice. Busy feels mascara is the most important part of the eye process and tends to use a purple, which she feels brings out her blue eyes. I observe that her whole makeup approach is very fun-loving, and that appeals to me.

Advertisement - Continue Reading Below


Busy tells us that while blush can feel unnatural, it looks "really delightful in pictures." She loosely applies a bronzer with a large, fluffy brush, focusing on Jenni's hairline and jawline. She busts out that damn Beauty Blender again to keep it looking natural.

Busy-Tip: "If you have a small face, you need a small brush."


Busy and Jenni bond over a shared obsession with the Nars chubby-stick lip colors. I feel left out and go get a La Croix seltzer. When I return, they have decided to go with a dark plummy shade that contrasts with the shimmery disco eye. Who does Jenni think she is, Diana Ross?


Busy feels strongly that too much powder ages a person. You should use only as much as you need to blot away excess shine.

What's really nice about watching Busy do this is her enthusiasm — she doesn't come at makeup with panic and fear, but rather like a kid finger painting: psyched to be free and easy. She also tells us that makeup, like so many things in this life, is about practice.

The next weekend we see Busy at a mutual pal's wedding. Her skin is glowing. Her lips are a tangerine dream. Her whole vibe is very Real Housewife in a caftan: "I didn't come here to make friends" in the best possible way. I point at my face enthusiastically, then at Jenni's: "Busy! Busy! We did the reverse contour!"

"Great job, ladies," she says, like the older sister you always wished you had and like the makeup guru you someday shall become.

Lena Dunham and Jenni Konner are not the same foundation OR eyebrow-pencil shade, and so these are the only items they can't share.

Read Next: